One can only imagine the way Jessy Mendiola commands attention whenever she walks into a room, whether it be through her doll-like features or her porcelain complexion. This time, however, what first caught my attention was her new platinum blonde ‘do, which is the most drastic hair change she had ever gone through since joining the show business industry—or possibly, ever.
“This was really one thing on my bucket list,” the actress says when I ask about why she had decided to color her hair blonde. “I change my hair when I’m bored. Some people tell me they prefer me with my dark hair or my long hair, but I tell them this: ‘It’s my hair, my rules!’” she says with a laugh. Jessy also shares that she dyed her hair blonde shortly after wrapping up the filming of her new film ‘Stranded,’ which she stars in with Arjo Atayde.
“First time ko gumawa ng film katulad ng ‘Stranded.’ Walang masyadong locations or melodramatic scenes. It was very natural and it centered on conversation, so I got to challenge myself in a different way,” Jessy shares. True to her words, the film, which is about two strangers developing feelings for each other while stranded inside a warehouse during a typhoon, relies heavily on dialogue and the strength of the two leads. Think of the chemistry between the two main actors in the ‘Before’ Trilogy or in ‘That Thing Called Tadhana.’ In the middle of talking about her film, she suddenly turns wistful, saying that she wishes more Filipino films didn’t lazily follow a formula to guarantee box office success. “That’s what I find sad about the Filipino film industry nowadays—it’s not as strong anymore. Hindi katulad ng dati. Maybe it’s a sign that we should support our own films more rather than just focusing on international films,” she wonders aloud.
These days, the new and improved Jessy believes in pursuing projects that she fully believes in. “I was in the industry since I was 14. Hindi ako katulad dati na go ka lang ng go. Once you get older, you realize things like, ‘Ay, hindi ko pala gusto ‘to.’” In addition to this, she has also grown wiser about her work-life balance, learning the importance of taking breaks. “It’s all about time management, which can be a little hard in showbiz because of the long hours,” she confesses.
Being an actress in a celebrity-centered country such as the Philippines certainly has its cons, with one of them being having your personal struggles exposed to the public. Jessy is no stranger to the undeserved criticisms that netizens throw at public figures, but she takes things with a certain elegance. “One big challenge I’m proud of overcoming is my struggles with body image,” she starts. “It’s harder when you’re younger and you see beautiful people everyday. Now, I simply accept that I will never be built like a model. I have thighs, boobs, and I accept myself for that. Of course I still have insecurities to this day, but what is important is how you talk to yourself. I just take it day by day.”
One way Jessy likes to manifest this positivity of hers is through her YouTube channel, which is only a few months old at this point. “My friends were telling me to do it for the longest time kasi uso naman daw. Luis naman would warn me at first,” she says, referring to actor and host Luis Manzano, her partner of three years. “He would ask me if I was sure, since my vlogs could be another platform for people to bash me. But I told him that it’s okay, I have nothing to lose at this point. Vlogging is a nice way of expressing yourself, of talking about topics that you can’t always discuss on TV.” From makeup tutorials to tidbits of her everyday life with Luis to her travels, Jessy proves to us that we can easily be authors of our own lives in this day and age.
Another thing that keeps the beauty busy is her online store, Señorita, which sells colorful, intricately-designed purses and caftans perfect for tropical countries. When asked about the inspiration behind the brand, she shares, “Here, people only see my Filipino side. A lot forget that I’m Middle Eastern too, half Lebanese. And I also feel that the vibrant Middle Eastern-inspired designs would blend well here.” Jessy adds that she thought of adding caftans to the collection because she wanted something that could flatter women of all body sizes and all ages. “I thought of adding those pieces to Señorita because I was struggling with my body for a long time, and I want people to feel confident enough to go to the beach without having to worry about baring too much skin.”
While Jessy is as youthful as ever, talking to her will make you realize the magnitude of what she has gone through and how it has shaped her. She unexpectedly drops nuggets of wisdom here and there, and all you have to do is listen: “I find beauty in reinventing yourself. Personally, being proactive is a big part of that—traveling to open your mind, meeting new people, trying new things. I feel that it is the best gift you could give yourself,” she says. Next on her bucket list? To train to be a jump master (“basically the person who assists you when you go sky diving”), to travel to Mexico or South Africa or Brazil, and to continue diving in different parts of the Philippines. Whether or not she would still be wearing her hair blonde by the time she ticks these things off her list, one thing is for sure—she will keep charging forward. “Just focus on what makes you happy,” she says with a reassuring smile.